The A to Z of Gym Etiquette

Everything you need to know about minding your manners at the gym

Just like you're expected to behave politely and follow basic table manners when dining with others (what you do when you eat alone is a whole other story), when you work out at a public gym there are certain rules and guidelines that should be followed so that all members can share an enjoyable exercise experience.

Refer to our guide below for an A to Z list detailing the most important dos and don’ts of gym culture.

A is for Abiding the Time Limit
At most gyms, members are typically advised to keep their cardio equipment usage to 30 minutes or shorter. This especially applies during peak hours when the gym is most crowded. (Usually during early-morning and after-work hours.) During non-peak hours and when no one is waiting to use a cardio machine it's usually OK to exceed the time limit.

B is for Be Patient
If someone else is using a piece of equipment that you need, wait patiently. Do not rush them by continually asking whether or not they’re finished or tapping your foot impatiently. Wait until they stop to ask if they’re finished. Do another exercise or different part of your workout until they’re done.

C is for Cell Phone Courtesy
Don't talk on your cell phone while working out. It's dangerous for your own safety and distracting to other members. Those who mull around on equipment texting instead of exercising are also looked down upon.

D is for Drop Your Weights Lightly
Not only is it unsafe to violently slam weights by dropping them from high up in the air or recklessly letting them go, but again, it's distracting to other members. A certain amount of clinking and clunking is acceptable and expected, but it shouldn't be at an excessive or violent level.

E is for Exercise
Don’t be the person who comes to the gym to do everything but workout. Sure, it’s a social setting, but it’s also not a party or networking event. The gym is a space for exercising and that’s what it should be used for. Avoid chatting with other members while they’re trying to exercise and occupying equipment or space while performing non-exercise activities.

F is for Friendliness
Nobody wants to work out in a hostile environment. Create a welcoming and sociable atmosphere by showing respect and kindness to every member. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone but the gym can be a great place to meet new friends and workout partners.

G is for Get To Class On Time
Showing up late to a group exercise class not only interrupts the instructor, but everyone in the class too. Be respectful by being on time.

H is for Helping Hands
If you know the proper way to do so, and see someone who might need help, offer to spot their lift. However, unless they are about to be seriously injured, always ask if they would like help first. If someone asks you to help spot them, be kind and offer a hand. 

I is for In the Middle
As in, don’t talk to someone or try to get their attention while they’re in the middle of a set. Breaking their concentration is not only rude but it could also lead to injury.

J is for Judgment Free Zone
Every member is at the gym for a different reason. Let go of superficial stereotypes and worry about your own goals and your own workout.

K is for Know When to Use Towels
It’s usually common courtesy to cover shared surfaces like benches and seated machines with a towel before you sit or lie down. This especially holds true if you happen to be extra sweaty. 

L is for Locker Rooms
Treat them with the same respect that you do the rest of the gym. Meaning, clean up after yourself and respect other member’s personal space and privacy.

M is for Make Use of the Right Equipment
For example, don’t do bicep curls in the squat rack or lie down and do crunches in the middle of the weight-lifting area.

N is for Notify the Staff
If you notice a piece of equipment that’s broken or not functioning properly, let a gym employee know so that it can be noted as out of order to other members and repaired as soon as possible.

O is for Observe the Rules
There are all different kinds of gyms and some might have their own specific sets of rules. Find them, read them, and respect them.

P is for Personal Space
Be mindful of the exercises that other members are performing, some take up more room than others. Like any other public space, it won’t be appreciated if you stand or work too closely near others. During group exercise classes there should be at least an arms width length between you and the person next to you on either side.

Q is for Question a Trainer
If you’re not sure how to perform an exercise or use a piece of equipment, ask a trainer who works at the gym. You’ll avoid breaking the equipment or worse, getting injured.

R is for Re-rack your Weights
If you were able to put the plates on the bar, you should be able to take them back off when you’re finished. The person using the equipment after you shouldn’t have to put them away for you. The same goes for dumbbells; never leave them lying on the floor and always put them back in their proper spots.

S is for Sharing
Don't hog the equipment. This particularly applies to weight lifting workouts that incorporate benches or resistance machines and require multiple sets. If you're resting between a set, it's common courtesy to share the equipment with another member who can use it until it’s time for your next set. (Also known as “working in.”)

T is for Tolerance
Recognize that everyone is at the gym for a different reason. Everyone has a different goals and everyone works out at a different level. Practice tolerance by showing acceptance for every member.

U is for Unsolicited Advice
Don’t offer anyone fitness or health advice unless they specifically ask for your help. Even if you see someone doing an exercise incorrectly, unless they are about to become seriously injured, it’s not your place to walk up and correct them.

V is for Veil Your Gaze
In other words, don’t leer or gawk at other members.

W is for Wipe Down Your Equipment
Common courtesy: when you’re finished with a machine use a towel to wipe it down. Many gyms have stations stocked with paper towels and sanitizing spray that you can use to clean off equipment after you use it.

X is for X-Ray Vision
People can’t see through you, so be mindful when you’re walking in front of mirrors that weightlifters may be using to keep check of their form.

Y is for Your Gym Bag Belongs in the Locker Room
Most other members probably won’t appreciate it if you take up extra space by leaving your bag lying around on the floor where it has the potential for being tripped over.

Z is for Zip It
Recognize when other members would rather not be engaged, like when they’re wearing headphones or concentrating on performing a complicated lift, and respect their wishes to not be bothered with chit chat.

Are there any other gym rules you would add to our list? Share them with us in the comments section below!